Verbal Abuse

Domestic violence takes many forms including but not limited to physical, emotional, or verbal abuse.

What is verbal abuse?

There is no fixed verbal abuse definition in Australia. However, if your partner is criticising everything that you do, shouts at you or regularly uses cruel language to intimidate you or assert their authority, then you may be suffering from verbal abuse. In these scenarios, your partner will often make you feel anxious or will say that you’re being too sensitive if you try to speak up.

Unlike physical abuse, verbal abuse effects can be much harder to spot, particularly if the abuse is done in a subtle or controlled manner.

Ultimately, there’s a power dynamic associated with verbal abuse, meaning the abuser attempts to assert control over their victim over a period of time. During this time, they’ll use their words to control or emotionally hurt someone close to them.

Who commits verbal abuse?

Sadly, verbal abuse is often committed by someone who you love and trust. Most commonly, verbal abuse in Australia is committed by your:

  • Boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife;
  • Ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, ex-partner, ex-husband or ex-wife;
  • Family, such as your parent or guardian;  or
  • Adult children.

The old childhood rhyme ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me’ is incorrect. Particularly because the abuser will be close to you, the verbal abuse effects can be highly damaging.

Not only can verbal abuse devastate your emotional and mental health, but it may escalate to other forms of violence.

Nobody has the right to take your voice away from you so, if you believe that you’re suffering from verbal abuse in Australia, then speak to a trained and experienced family lawyer who can explain your rights.

Who can obtain a Domestic Violence Order to stop verbal abuse?

Domestic or family violence refers to violence, abuse and/or intimidation between people who are currently or have previously been in a ‘relevant relationship’.

In order to apply for a Domestic Violence Order in Queensland, you need to be in a ‘relevant relationship’ with the perpetrator (known legally as the defendant). These relationships are defined by the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012, which states that relevant relationships include:

  • Spousal relationships, including de facto relationships, biological parents of a child and same-sex couples;
  • Family relationships, including relations by blood or marriage and cultural relationships; or
  • Informal care relationships, including unpaid carers who assist with day-to-day living arrangements.

If you are not in a ‘relevant relationship’ and do not qualify for protection under the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012, there are other options available to you for seeking protection and we would encourage you to contact the police to discuss your options.

If you are in a ‘relevant relationship’, you should speak to an experienced family lawyer who will be able to explain your rights and outline how you could possibly free yourself from the situation with the help of the law.

Verbal abuse signs

Verbal abuse can be hard to spot. This is because the verbal abuse signs are quite far ranging. They include everything from name calling to bullying and shouting. If you’d like to learn more, then consider these verbal abuse examples and consider whether they apply to you:

  • Using swear words;
  • Repeated and prolonged yelling;
  • Underhanded comments;
  • Silent treatment;
  • Unwanted attacks that aren’t part of a conversation or another argument;
  • Unequal arguments where one partner uses language to dominate the other;
  • Harmful comments that are designed to damage self-esteem, confidence or sense of reality; or
  • Continual attacks that are much more than a one off.

In addition, an abuser may also follow one of the following verbal abuse indicators:

  • Gaslighting: where the abuser attempts to control a victim’s sense of reality by claiming events didn’t happen or claiming the victim is ‘crazy’ for believing someone else’s version of events;
  • Intimidation: the abuser may threaten you with physical violence in order to intimidate you, or they may even threaten to hurt themselves or other people around you;
  • Undermining: your abuser may attempt to undermine or trivialise your sense of self, your opinions or your feelings.

In all of these verbal abuse examples, one person is attempting to control the other. With all the common verbal abuse signs, you’ll see that there’s an ongoing pattern of criticism from one person. On occasions, your abuser may be sweet and loving, but they will always return to their hurtful ways.

Leaving an abusive relationship

If you believe that any of the verbal abuse indicators we’ve mentioned above apply to your situation and you want to understand what protections might be available to you, please call us on (07) 3837 5500 or get started online.